For Cole Dabney, if there’s one result of leaving Austin for Los Angeles and then returning, it’s that he realizes how much certain uniquely Austin spots are taken for granted.
He hasn’t been back for very long, but he’s noticed that he can still count on popular local haunts to stay the same. Outdoor areas like Zilker Park and Barton Springs remain as relaxed and easy as they ever were, retreats from the bustle of a busy schedule.
And even in L.A., where Dabney worked in the film industry, he never found a movie theater quite like the Alamo Drafthouse, although people there had certainly heard about Tim League’s chain of cinemas.
He’s also always appreciated Violet Crown Cinema downtown on West Second Street, a theater where independent film is championed and shown regularly.
"As much as Austin grows, those places don’t change," Dabney said.
He’s returned to the town where he first developed his love of movies and filmmaking to pursue a burgeoning career as a director, currently focusing on music videos but hoping also to put together a TV show about Sixth Street with his producing partners, among other directing ventures.
So far the project about Austin’s biggest party district is a two-minute "sizzle" — a short video — featuring bars such as Buckshot and the Aquarium. He said a good way to describe the project, titled simply "6th Street," is to think of it as "Entourage" meets "Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
Dabney has been involved in film for almost a decade, since he was a teenager full of dreams about being in the movie industry. Along with a friend, he founded the Austin Film Critics Association, an originally small group of other film buffs who drew the attention of larger critics’ circles, such as "Entertainment Weekly," for giving a Best Actress award to Ellen Page for "Hard Candy" rather than to Helen Mirren for "The Queen."
In addition to music videos and TV show pilots, Dabney has enjoyed creating parody videos of popular movies such as "The Social Network" and "Drive." He said he and his production group were resourceful with a low budget and sought out friends’ apartments and University of Texas fraternity houses to film the parodies. They shot part of "Drink" — the "Drive" spoof — at a dive bar frequented by University of Texas students called Nasty’s, just off Guadalupe Street.
Dabney, a Georgetown native and UT graduate, is a local who has no problem with the influx of people moving into Austin. To him, coffee shops like Jo’s on South Congress Avenue remain unpretentious, existing still as meeting spots for friends grabbing a drink and catching up or as quiet places to think and work.
He said that Georgetown, too, has grown, but he doesn’t mind sharing his favorite Mexican restaurant with others. Whenever he’s in town, he makes sure to stop by Dos Salsas for a meal.